Orecchiette with Cauliflower, Breadcrumbs, Pancetta, and Pepitas

October  3, 2010
14 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
Author Notes

Putting a few breadcrumbs in a pasta dish is a common Italian trick that adds the right counterpoint of texture, taste and color to a simple sauce. Here I’ve paired them with some peppery fall cauliflower and salty pancetta. Owing to the current shortage of pine nuts, I’ve substituted unsalted pepitos – hulled pumpkin seeds – which are more abundant (that is, cheaper), and add both nutty flavor and a shade of green to this otherwise very pale dish. - cheese1227 —cheese1227

Test Kitchen Notes

This lovely simple pasta incorporates different textures and balances flavors nicely. The lightly sautéed cauliflower just starts to get crispy edges. A touch of toasty breadcrumbs and lemon juice goes a long way. - Stephanie —The Editors

  • Serves 8 cups of pasta
  • 1 1/2 pounds cauliflower, broken into bite sized pieces
  • 1 pound of orecchiette (if unavailable use conchiglie or cavatelli)
  • 1 cup fresh bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds)
  • 1/4 cup of good olive oil
  • 3 thick slices of pancetta, cut into small dice.
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 lemon wedge
  • 1/2 cup grated pecorino cheese
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
In This Recipe
  1. Set a large pot of salted water to boil. When it gets to a boil, drop the cauliflower in and blanch for about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove and set aside.
  2. In a large, non stick skillet, dry toast first the bread crumbs until they are browned and then the pepitas until they start to pop. Set both ingredients aside.
  3. Drop the pasta into the water to cook until al dente.
  4. Put the oil in the skillet and fry the bacon pieces until crispy. Add the cauliflower and chopped garlic to the skillet and sauté for about 2 minutes.
  5. Drain pasta (reserving a quarter cup of the pasta water). Add pasta to skillet with 1/4 cup of pasta water. Add lemon juice, pecorino cheese, and parsley and mix well. Adjust for salt and pepper.
  6. Remove from heat and stir in bread crumbs and pepitas.
  7. Serve warm.

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I am an excellent eater (I have been all my life). I’m a pretty good cook (Ask my kids!). And my passable writing improves with alcohol (whether it's the writer or the reader that needs to drink varies by sentence.). I just published my first cookbook, Green Plate Special, which focuses on delicious recipes that help every day cooks eat more sustainably.